Cambodia October – November 2016 (18 photos)

I suspect almost everyone who visits Siem Reap ends up going to Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat is a walled temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world, with the site measuring 162.6 hectares (1,626,000 m2; 402 acres).

Across a wide moat and beyond the outer wall, you enter the grounds of the temple and proceed to the central complex. The small lake outside the central temple complex affords the typical picturesque views.

It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple for the god Vishnu, gradually transforming into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. It was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and eventual mausoleum. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation.

Angkor Wat has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and is almost certainly the number one tourist attraction of the country. There were over 2 million visitors in 2015 and rumours exist online that a cap may eventually be placed on visitor numbers to preserve the site.

Angkor Wat combines two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple-mountain and the later galleried temple. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology: within a moat and an outer wall 3.6 kilometres (2.2 mi) long are three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next. At the centre of the temple stands a quincunx of towers. Unlike most Angkorian temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west; scholars are divided as to the significance of this. The temple is admired for the grandeur and harmony of the architecture, its extensive bas-reliefs, and for the numerous devatas adorning its walls.

In deference to the significance of this site, no building in Siem Reap may be built higher than the tallest point of Angkor Wat.

Daily, quite a few of the visitors are Buddhist Monks, many from Thailand from what my guide told me.

Above, one sees part of the original steps that needed to be climbed to reach the top. These days more user friendly steps have been built to reach the top.

One expects to see Buddhist Monks when visiting Angkor Wat. Afterall, it has a great religious significance. But I was kind of surprised to see many of them had mobile phones, selfie sticks and DSLR cameras.

This is my contribution to the topic of “Unusual” on this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge. The guest host just happens to be me. 🙂

The steep climb up is no trouble for most. However the same can’t be said for the descent. I really feel sorry for the woman a few behind me who started crying and completely froze after going down only a couple of steps. With coaxing, she sat down and gradually descended, on her bottom, sitting and stopping on every step along the way.

Of course, after a visit to Angkor Wat, most people head back into Siem Reap for food and drink. Pub Street is the popular spot for tourists. Not sure about these tourist monks of Angkor Wat, though. As they say, what happens on tour, stays on tour.

Please click the link to see my previous posts about Cambodia.

My photo series of Vivid Sydney 2017 is now over, having ended with a post about the main display on the Sydney Opera House, entitled Audio Creatures. I hope to complete a few more posts about my recent travels to Cambodia, New Zealand and within Australia over the next few weeks, but much of my spare time at the moment is taken up by planning and organising my next trip, and taking the time to learn some basics of a foreign language that should help me to blend in a little with the locals.

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

The tourist monks of Angkor Wat


60 thoughts on “The tourist monks of Angkor Wat

  1. I love your monk photos especially. It’s funny you mention monks with mobile phones etc. I guess we don’t expect to see them with modern technology. I captured one Shaolin Monk at the Shaolin Temple in China using a mobile phone – guess I was a bit surprised. But I loved it.

    • I guess the media has instilled stereotypes in our minds. When I think Buddhist Monks, I think abstinence from luxuries. Mobile phones, selfie sticks and cameras just make me surprised. It’s funny. 🙂

  2. KG says:

    Congratulations on hosting the WP’s photography challenge, LD 🙂
    I was surprised to see them doing some chanting and checking something on a phone simultaneously. 😀

  3. Great challenge – and a great entry too! It’s nice to have such a very tempting challenge, and one that makes us reconsider at the same time what we think of as unusual. I feel very sorry for the lady who was scared of climbing down the stairs – that’s the stuff of nightmares!

  4. Saw a few puffing cigarettes when I was there. Hopefully nicotine, cell phones and selfies won’t deter their paths to enlightenment. Love Angkor Wat and the rest of Cambodia! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Another pure delight, Draco. I loved this visit to Angkor Wat, especially the photographic emphasis on the Buddhist monks, so very interesting. Enjoyed the architecture and explanation (had to look up “quincunx,” a wonderful word), seeing the original and “user friendly” steps. Also, I didn’t know the complex was so huge. Although I enjoyed every single photo, my two favorites are the close-up of the two monks pondering their phones, and the last photo on their adventure.

    • Thank you so much, Jet. It’s a massive walled site and I can only imagine what the people went through to build it. The monks certainly add character to the temple and the town of Siem Reap. I guess they know they’re a tourist attraction in their own right. 🙂

    • Thank you very much, Sally. Despite the crowds, there are many places to find solitude and just contemplate the history and significance of this temple. It is an amazing site.

  6. These awesome shots tell fun side of the stories of your travel. I thoroughly enjoy it!
    It reminded the trip we made to the Great Wall, when we gradually climbed up to 45 degrees up. I started climbing down, so I didn’t cry. 🙂
    No wonder I saw only 2,3 monks in BKK. They went to Angkor Wat for vacation.
    Congratulations for hosting WPC, Dragon! I love this theme. Brilliant! 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Amy. Yes, there were plenty of monks in Angkor, with many locations still active sites of worship.

      I think that when people go on tour, they feel the need to do everything, like going to the very top of Angkor Wat and forgetting you have to come down eventually. I try to remember my limitations. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  7. J.D. Riso says:

    Monks with selfie sticks…I saw a lot of that at the Yonghe Lamasery in Beijing. There were also a lot of intimidating steps at the Great Wall. We complain about the steep ascent…until it’s time to descend. White knuckles on the railing. Thanks for another vibrant set of photos. I love the contrast of the orange robes and gray stone.

    • Thanks, Julie. I always try to consider that if I go up, I have to come back down, and vice versa. No point getting stuck and needing to be rescued. 🙂

      I guess this is just proof of how pervasive technology is now. I suppose they all have their own Facebook pages as well.

  8. Very nice photos. I was saddened to see Monks taking selfies and all with cameras. It seems a bit unusual to me. Guess technology is everywhere. Wonder if they sneak photos of themselves in sacred temples too.

  9. Great to see the source for this week’s challenge, Draco. I do find it hard to see monks with selfie sticks but I guess everyone’s ‘off duty’ sometimes. 🙂 🙂 Thank you for your lucid explanation of the site. I don’t think I’d realised the scale of it. And happy travels, as always!

    • In the end, they are human and enjoy being tourists for a while. It is a strange sight if you’re not ready for it. 🙂

      Thanks, Jo. Several weeks to go yet, but a lot of planning is needed for this next trip.

  10. Very interesting to hear how the site faces the west, and no other piece of architecture in Siem Reap can be built higher than the highest point here. It is a powerful place with powerful meaning on many levels. Maybe those Buddhist monks with camera and phone in hand were…following the Dragon and looking to get inspired 😉 Brilliant crisp shots as usual. Good luck with planning the next trip 🙂

    • Actually, I was wondering if perhaps those monks were sent to photograph me. 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Yes, Angkor Wat has significant cultural and spiritual significance to the country. It defines their identity.

      Thank you. Trying to stay within the rules of several countries at once can be difficult.

      • Haha. Maybe they were sent on a mission to capture the true you 🙂 🙂

        As you touched on in the post, it will be interesting to see if visitor numbers will be capped. If so, I’m guessing it can take some of us a long while before we can actually visit.

        • I suspect by “capping” they mean restricting numbers to not much more than 2 million a year, or otherwise similar to current numbers. Tourism developments continue in Siem Reap.

          I suppose I should scan the Monks’ Facebook pages for photos of me. LOL 🙂

        • It will be interesting to see if the authories will move ahead with ‘capping’. Perhaps it will be capping the number per day in order to each a certain number of people per year. Or maybe it will be opened on certain days.

          Hehe. Maybe you are famous over there already and next time you go, they will roll out the red carpet 🙂

        • LOL. I know the hotel I stayed at took my photo and pinned it in their staff room, because I booked a suite for 10 nights. A suite in Cambodia was cheaper than a single bed room in Melbourne. Everyone greeted me by name each day. 🙂

          I don’t know what the authorities will do, but limiting potential damage to the remaining temples is a good thing.

  11. Heide says:

    Apart from being beautiful, your images always convey context and a sense place (like the people climbing those forbiddingly steep metal steps). So while it’s a bit surprising at first to see monks using mobile phones and selfie sticks, it’s also cool to see them as part of the site’s cultural and touristic ecosystem.

    • Thank you very much. The big picture and the little details. They are both important. I’m glad I was able to project some of this in this post. Have a good weekend.

  12. Ankor wat temple has a great significance in Indian history and culture.
    The south Indian empires like Chol,Pallava,Chalukya,Pandya had a great impact on South East Asian countries especially Cambodia,Indonesia,Malaysia,Vietnam.

  13. Wonderful photos! Thanks for sharing some of the history of this amazing place. Love the bright contrast of the Monk’s robes. It never would have occurred to me that the Monk’s would have cell phones. When I think of the term monk I don’t equate them with modern technology. I’ve always thought of them as giving up all that. Interesting! The architecture is amazing and the fact that it’s still there after centuries. I feel for that poor woman. Not sure what I would have done as I’m far from comfortable with heights.

    • Thank you. I agree, my preconceptions about Monks were rattled when I saw them with all that electronic gear. Funny to see, though. 🙂

      I suspect that woman didn’t realise the height would affect her that much, otherwise she wouldn’t have climbed up. Angkor Wat and Cambodia are amazing places in many respects. I’m glad I went.

  14. What a beautiful place to visit, Lignum.
    I have so enjoyed your photographs, especially the portrait of the monk.
    I have to smile when I see them with their cell phone cameras. I did not know they were “allowed” to have such things.
    Thank you so very much for taking us along with you, here.
    Have a wonderful week.

    • Thank you very much, Lisa. I always monks observed a certain level of abstinence and separation from life’s material possessions. I agree, this was quite unusual to see.

      Have a great week ahead.

  15. Such amazing photos. The contrast of the coloured robes with the temple buildings makes for such beautiful captures. I love the different angles you shoot from…a reminder to look at new perspectives.

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